Even thought Maya ships with MASH, the motion graphics toolkit which makes instancing easy, there is still a case that can be made to fundamentally understand how Maya instances work.
An overview of very basic methods of controlling Maya particle instancing
Creating instances is pretty easy. The issue then becomes, how do you control them. There are actually a few ways that you can control Maya nParticle instances. Freelance Artist, and Teaching Professor at Drexel University in the Animation and Visual Effects program, Jeremy Fernsler, shows the most common a few methods. Jeremy covers using expressions, color and Ramps to control them.
Jeremy admits that there are better ways to do many of the things that he is showing in this tutorial, but these represent quick and easy methods, that can easily be built upon. The very definition of foundation. Jeremy Fernsler’s previous tutorial has a great walkthrough for creating a scene where an object disintegrates into dust, using Maya’s nParticles, that is not to be missed.